The decision of whether to have children is an extremely personal one. However, the societal pressure to start a family weigh heavy on many young people’s minds. Too often, the first thing couples are asked at social functions is, “When are you going to have a baby?” This question seems particularly and unfairly pointed toward women, who are continually reminded that their fertile years are dwindling.

The truth is, for most people, the answer to this question isn’t black and white. No matter what you decide, you’ll need to make sacrifices. If you have children, you sacrifice the freedom and flexibility that comes with childfree living. If you choose not to have children, you sacrifice the experience of parenthood.

The good news is that you don’t need to feel pushed into making a decision. Whether you are undecided, trying to conceive, or don’t want kids, there are tools available to empower your choice.

If you want to hold off on parenthood, birth control can keep you from getting pregnant. Options like the pill, ring, or patch make it easy to find something that works with your body and lifestyle. For long-term birth control, women can go with a copper IUD to prevent pregnancy for 10 years.

If you choose to start trying to conceive, ovulation tests can help you predict when you’re ovulating. Wherever you’re at on your journey, these tools can enable you to make the decision that’s right for you.

Choosing whether or not you want to become a parent isn’t easy. Use the following questions to help guide your decision-making process.

1. Am I Financially Ready to Take Care of a Child?

There’s no getting around it. Kids are expensive. As with any decision that impacts household finances, you need to explore how becoming a parent will affect your bank account.

If you hope to take a break from work after pregnancy or adoption, you may find yourself in a financial pinch. Most U.S. employers don’t offer paid parental leave, forcing new parents to rethink their post-baby budget.

Furthermore, childcare costs continue to rise, costing parents hundreds of dollars a week. Even school-aged children may require after-school care or summer babysitters. For many couples, money can be a barrier to having children. Spend some time examining your financial situation with your partner before deciding to leap into parenthood.


2. Do I Have Support?

The challenges described above can be even more daunting for parents who aren’t part of a couple. Single moms are superheroes, but many of them will tell you raising kids solo isn’t easy. Whether through medical technology or adoption, more women choose to have children on their own. Although this choice can be incredibly empowering, it also means parenthood’s emotional and financial burdens fall on one person.

Even if you have a partner, raising a child far away from family and friends can be difficult. Grandparents make it easier to enjoy child-free weekends or impromptu date nights when you need a break from parenthood. In addition, research shows that women who have strong relationships with grandparents (specifically grandmothers) feel like more competent mothers. While raising kids without support is doable, it’s nice to have help when you need it.


3. Will I Have to Pursue a Nontraditional Path to Parenthood?

Women suffering from fertility issues and members of the LGBTQ community experience more barriers than most to having children. If you fall into either category, you’ll have to explore some nontraditional paths to parenthood. These paths come with a unique set of challenges that you’ll have to consider.

Advancements in medicine have helped thousands of women become pregnant, but they can take an emotional and financial toll. Treatments like in vitro fertilization cost thousands of dollars and aren’t always successful.

Adoption is another route, but it can be a long and complicated process. Like IVF, adoption can be expensive, and the extensive process can take an emotional toll on parents-to-be. Before pursuing either option, you need to weigh the financial and emotional strain associated with both.

4. What Will I Have to Change About My Lifestyle When I Have a Baby?

Your life will change after having a baby. It’s inevitable. Not all change is bad, but you need to ask yourself whether you’re ready for it.

If you live in a small apartment, you may have to consider moving to a more spacious living environment. If you’re a longtime user of ride-share services and mass transit, you might find that hauling all those baby essentials requires a car.

Moreover, you’ll need to prepare for a little less freedom and a little more planning. Random weeknight dinners with friends or vacations to the beach have to be thought through with more consideration. Babies can’t take care of themselves, and children require constant attention. If you decide to have children, you’ll have to give up some of your freedom to accommodate their needs.

The decision between child-free life and parenthood isn’t an easy one. Having a baby can be a beautiful and rewarding experience, but it doesn’t come without sacrifices. The good news is, this choice doesn’t have to be made overnight. Spend some time considering the previous questions — with your partner, if applicable — to decide whether you’re ready to become a parent.



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